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Saturday, February 22, 2003

I continue to be amazed by the spectacularly growing antiwar movement. As it continues to gather momentum all over the world, the pessimist in me is somewhat calmed; with each passing day, war appears less and less inevitable. With enough pressure, it is likely that many of the US's current "staunch" allies might back down and change their course, choosing to side with the more realistic and rational world leaders. As more "allies" choose another path, the probability of resolving the situation through peaceful means becomes more of a possibility. More than anything, that is why a global, peaceful antiwar movement is so important.

As far as the American movement is concerned, I fear it is in danger of making itself hopelessly irrelevant. This is happening largely because movement leaders desperately want to avoid appearing "anti-American" in today's political and international climate (unfortunately a next-to-impossible task). Most antiwar activists do this by making a simple statement that, while it may sound nice and neutral, contradicts their actions: We do not support a war, but we do support our troops. I seem to be one of the few people who is deeply troubled by such an attitude. People who are much more radical and activist-oriented than I am (and I'm pretty far out there) always seem to fall in line on this one issue--oppose the war, support the troops.

To "support our troops" is to support the war, and there is no way around it. The situation would be different if a military draft were in place; in that case, many of those who would serve in the armed forces would not be there by choice (though technically there is a choice in such a situation, but few would choose federal prison over military service). In the case of the Vietnam War, it was entirely appropriate to "support the troops" since a large chunk of them were serving against their will. They needed the support since they were just as much victims of government policy as were the Vietnamese families melted by US napalm.

In today's situation, there is no draft--all soldiers are soldiers because they volunteered to be soldiers. They chose to be there. They chose to turn themselves into potentially lethal instruments of US foreign policy. Are they all bloodthirsy killers? Not really. I'm guessing the number of men and women who join the military out of a desire to kill other human beings is very small (though I am sure those people are there). Most people join the military because they are enticed with money for college, training in "high tech" occupations, and travel to exotic destinations. Think about it: have you ever seen an Army or Navy advertisement that says, "Join the Army: Go to war, probably kill some foreign humans, and possibly be killed by them (or in a training accident)"? No. Kids are tricked into volunteering. A good many never have to go to war or see combat. Life is good. They become recruiters to tell other kids how great the military is. And so on.

Does this brainwashing excuse any of these individuals, though? In my opinion, no. So what if they were tricked? So what if the recruiters played upon a person's low economic status by offering them financial rewards? So what? Just a small amount of critical thinking (and anyone who has ever seen a war movie or watched the evening news will be able to do so in this case) will lead a person to think, Hey, I might have to kill. I might have to die. I don't care how brainwashed a person is, that thought must cross their mind at some point. From that point on, for all intents and purposes, they become a killer. That is their job. No matter what duty they take up when in service, it all comes down to one basic factor: eliminate the enemy. Kill. Destroy. Victory. They knew it going in. Without the soldier, who will fight? With no one to fight, how will there be a war?

If the antiwar activists are like me, and I know most of them are, they are primarily opposed because of the death and destruction that will come from war. Where does the death and destruction come from? Who does the killing and destroying? Who is ultimately responsible for making the choice to pull the trigger, drop the bomb, and launch the missile? It's not the president, it's not the secretary of defense; it is the soldier.


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